The Sour Controversy

Here in the US, sour beers have become a major trend in the craft brewing industry. I’ve written a couple of posts on the subject. Here in Tampa Bay, many of the new microbreweries have anywhere from 30-50% of their taps filled with sours, mainly goses and berliner weisses (though we call them florida weisses down here because a lot of tropical/citrus fruits are used in them). I’ve most recently seen this up close and personal last weekend when my friends and I did a small microbrewery crawl for my birthday, covering five places in all. Sours, sours everywhere. After sampling quite a few myself and having a lot in our group taste them, the following belief has been further solidified for me. Just like asparagus, you are either a sour person or a non sour person. Your palate has been genetically pre-wired to be one or the other……for most people. Most everybody in the group routinely made a “nasty” face when sampling a sour. I may be an exception because I find I’m in a gray area. I’m not all in or all out. It depends on the style of sour. I did not like most of the weisses because there was something about the combination of the fruit component not meshing with the sour component for me. It just didn’t click. However, I found the gose (a sour made with salt and coriander, no fruit), mild, tart and refreshing. I also tried a 100% Brett IPA and that was very interesting and drinkable. So I’m not entirely opposed to funk either. It just needs to be present in the right context for me. I have been making it a point now for months to order at least one sour at every tasting room I go to in order to gain experience, train my palate and pretty much give sours the good ol’ college try before dismissing them. I’m in the middle of making a kriek this year (a cherry sour lambic) just because. But I am getting to the point that I’ve had enough weisses. I’ll still sample a brett beer here and there and drink a gose if available, but I want to steer toward the more mainstream craft styles (malty or hoppy) when making my selections at the bar.

As far as the sour trend as a whole, I came across this opinion piece (link below). It kind of encapsulates both sides. There’s the “sours suck” side and the sour fanboy side. Then there are those in the middle. It’s an interesting and humorous read. I do wonder though if microbreweries that concentrate more on sour and wild ales may lower odds of long term success as a business because sours do not appeal to a wide general audience. They are a niche style and they are very divisive among those with strong opinions. But the next couple of years will tell the tale of whether sours are here to stay. If you haven’t tried one, give yourself the opportunity at the next place that offers one and see which side your palate is on.




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